Great Sunset Pictures

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Photographing Sunsets has been among the best sources of inspirations ever since I began taking pictures over 30 years ago when my father gave me a used 35mm single lens Yashica camera that someone had sold him for $10 dollars.

Over the years I have learned how to maximize all my opportunities to improve my sunset shots.

The first thing that l learned was to arrive early at my pre-determined location not only to be in place when the Sun began to hide below the horizon but to choose and scout good angles and search good perspectives.

If you start setting up just when the Sun begins its descent you may lose a great shot and be unable to get a good location or simply overlook a better one. About 45 minutes or so is a good time to be on location before you start to snap your photos.

One good tip is to look for features that will lead the eye towards the main subject like rivers, the shoreline, some branches or even a street scene. These can be useful in not only guiding the eye but of adding interest to the overall scene.

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If you aim the camera at the setting Sun and snap the shutter you will get a great photo of a bright orange ball with little or no surrounding detail. The best thing to do is to aim at the sky near the setting Sun and lock the settings so that when you focus on the Sun you will also get some surround details and not just a silhouette of the Sun.

When you include the horizon in the shot try not to place it directly in the center of the frame. A little lower or a little higher works better.

With that said the Sun does not have to be right in the center of the frame. Place it to the left of the frame or to the right, low in the horizon or high. Look for shots that are not standard. Try to make a difference whenever you can.

Avoid using the white balance setting. By disengaging the white balance auto set you will add more tonality to the sky, clouds and any other elements.

Flash can be useful but it will create shots that might show an unnatural looking near scenery. Use flash carefully and only if you want to create a special effect look.

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Most of us like to shoot in a horizontal mode but try adding some vertical shots by turning the camera sideways. These will yield a more creative view and might give you a more interesting look too.

Avoid using the auto focus mode since many meters can be easily fooled, especially if there's a lack of contrast that often occurs with such a bright subject like the Sun.

Depth of field might be tricky to judge but try to set the aperture to the lowest f stop setting that your license allows. This means that you will need a tripod since less light will be entering the sensor or film plane but it will also result in sharp details across the scene.

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Don't forget to incorporate people and structures into your sunset shots if they can add a level of interest to them.

Although pictures of sunsets stand well on their own they have been captured on film and in a digital format thousands of times.

Adding other interesting elements can push them to the next level but only if they fit the theme and add to the story.

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Most sunset photographs usually feature the Sun, some clouds and not much else.

If you plan your shot ahead you can include parts of the sky right before they fade into the darkness. Blue tones mixed in with the orange glow of the setting Sun make spectacular images.

Including portions of the elements in the horizon like mountain tops, the blue sky and the Sun often turn out even better and are more attractive than just showing an orange ball.

Plan and experiment and learn from the exercise.

Studying the best times when the Sun is scheduled to set, when the rain chances are low and the best places to capture these images will pay off in the end with beautiful images.

When ready to start taking pictures, pre- set the sensor to slightly underexpose the shot. Doing so will yield better contrast and the colors can turn out even richer than taking the shot at the recommended setting.

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© 2015 Luis E Gonzalez

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